Tag Archives: Iraq

Saving The Bees Or Saving My Rent?

In the last decade or so, there has been a massive increase in the number of campaigns and protests and such, by varied groups of people towards making our world a better place. I have great respect for people who live their lives completely or in bits for the restoration of human dignity, or compassion for animals. This brings to mind the people who work in the field in the communities and countries that require these interventions. It also brings to mind the people you find on streets in the city centres in different European countries; they wear brightly coloured raincoats and hold clipboards ready to stop you and talk to you about how you need to sign up to end game hunting in Zimbabwe, end the war in Iraq, to bring clean water to children in Lebanon, or to feed pregnant mothers and their children in Sudan.

All these causes are meaningful and contribute in no small measure to the many humanitarian interventions that are improving the lives of ordinary men and women. I know that these causes are important, because I have worked in international development; I saw how these contributions helped women make the choice between small creativity driven businesses, and commercial sex work. I also saw how the distribution of free condoms reduced the incidence of HIV infection. I saw how the funds collected by a small group of women in a small town church in North America contributed to the purchase of anti-shock garment that saved lives of pregnant women during prolonged and difficult labour.

However, that is not to say that there aren’t some disadvantages to this consistent request for funds from people. I have spoken to people who think it is all a huge racket to take advantage of people and pay big fat wages to development professionals, or to enrich individuals with no scruples who misappropriate these funds for personal gains; cars, houses, fancy holidays. I shall try to do a post on these types of issues soon enough. Someone also said to me that he was 33, and from when he was 10 years old, he saw the adverts on TV calling for aid to support African children. He was distraught that after 23 years, African children were still starving. I said to him that it continued to happen because those children who were barely able to feed have gone on to become struggling adults with their own children, and it is a vicious cycle; not entirely their fault, governments continue to be irresponsible and climate change is throwing us new challenges that make food production increasingly difficult on the planet. Very complicated.

Anyway, yesterday I was in the town centre and a really good looking man in a shiny yellow rain coat with the usual clipboard came over to me. I knew he was a campaigner looking for my money. I did not feel like stopping but what can I say? He was good looking and flashed me a smile that stopped me in my tracks. I asked him what he was campaigning for/about.

source: sciencebuzz.org
source: sciencebuzz.org

“Save the bees”, he said.

What? I thought it was a joke, I chuckled a little bit. But then I realised he was serious. He went on to tell me about how bees in the UK were going extinct. Bees are important and we need them for cross-pollination of crops. It was going to cost the UK over a billion pounds in the near future to conduct artificial pollination if nothing was done about saving the bees. Now at this point, I was struggling between keeping a straight face, and imagining homelessness and hunger in the UK and Ethiopia respectively. All these social issues are real and important, including bees. But the question is; what is more important, and to who, or at what point?

“We ask you to save the bees by giving five pounds by TEXt to …. right now and we shall give you a bee saver kit”.

He flashed that smile again, he was a really good looking kid. I think that these charities have found other styles too; hire only the hot ones with perfect straight teeth. I was distracted o. But man, I thought about it again, I have people in my distant extended family who are struggling to pay rent and school fees of their offspring, there are people who are so sick in Naija and are praying and drinking agbo because they cannot afford to go to hospital, hell I am struggling to pay my rent here as a student and buy books! I decided that I had no interest in saving the bees. The bees are not priority for me at this time, and I guess for many people. I shall eat bananas and the crops that bees do not need to pollinate, should I be unable to make saving bees a priority in the near future.

“No thanks, I shall not be saving the bees today”, I said and walked on, calculating how much more I needed to save to pay my fast approaching rent and buy that used book on Amazon.

The End Of An Era: Tribute to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

It was another school assembly; we stood in long lines on dusty grounds in front of the primary 3 block of classrooms, wearing pristine ironed blue dresses with starched white blouses peeking out from our necklines and arms. This was 1990 in Enugu, I was 7 years old and that morning was different. Our teachers were very excited, clutching each other’s hands, hugging one another and wearing very big smiles. We all knew something was different, was it another coup d’état?

“Good morning boys and girls, today is a special day. Nelson Mandela has been freed”. Our head teacher announced.

As soon as that announcement was made, all hell broke loose. It was as though the teachers had been looking for an opportunity to yell and make a loud raucous. We all followed suit. You see, my parents often spoke about Nelson Mandela, so I knew who he was. I knew that some very bad people in South Africa did not want him and “his brothers” to have freedom. Indeed I often sang “free Mandela” with my mum as we did the dishes or made soup at the weekends.

That day, we did not sing the national anthem as we did during each assembly. We held hands and sang Onyeka Onwuenu’s “One Love, Keep Us Together”. That day stayed with me.
Fast forward to a decade later, I began to read about the man whom his people fondly called Madiba; his tribal name. I have read a few biographies of Nelson Mandela, and I am amazed till today that a human being like me would believe so strongly in the ideals that he did, to the extent that he was prepared to give his life if need be. Till today, those famous last words he spoke in public during the trial after which he was sentenced in 1964 are still potent. I get goose pimples every time I hear that tape.

Nelson Mandela:Source: ubmnews.com
Nelson Mandela:Source: ubmnews.com

“If need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

What strikes me the most is the fact that he went to jail, kept his body active by exercising every morning, he prepared himself for what he knew was ahead. He learnt Afrikaans, the language of his oppressors and studied the culture to prepare him for the confrontation which was coming. Eventually when he was released, Mandela did not embrace confrontations and violence as so many thought he would. Indeed he would have been justified to do so. Instead, he embarked upon a journey of peace and reconciliation for his beloved South Africa. He believed in freedom for all regardless of race or ethnicity. The walls of apartheid fell in South Africa, and although the country still has its fair share of problems along racial lines, there are no more signs saying “Blacks, Indians and dogs are not allowed in this restaurant”.

A lot of people were concerned and believed that Madiba would not hand over after one term as President under ANC, I will tell you why. Look at the trend on the African continent! Many presidents think this position is their equivalent of a monarchy, and they continue to amend constitutions and play with the political set-up of their countries, damaging the democratic process and destroying their economies just to remain in power. Examples abound; Gabon, Zimbabwe, Togo, even Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo tried to amend the constitution and give himself a third term. Nelson Mandela handed over through proper elections and remained an elder statesman and critic of inappropriate or poor judgement in African and world politics. Recall he criticized Obasanjo for attempting to extend his term as president, and also spoke out criticizing Bush for his invasion of Iraq.

Nelson Mandela: Source: biography.com
Nelson Mandela: Source: biography.com

Many speak of how Madiba spent 27 years in prison and came out without bitterness. Well I do not believe he came out without bitterness. Mandela was bitter, and rightly so. You can deduce this from his interviews when he discusses his prison experience and what he missed out, especially in his personal/family life. He was stripped of his freedom, he missed the growth and evolution (if you wish) of his children, he was humiliated and suffered a great deal at the hands of his jailers, his wife Winnie suffered many rebukes and he could not help her when the people around her perpetrated the various indiscretions which made headlines. A few years after his release, he went through a divorce and became President as a lonely man, although he later found love with Graca Machel, the widow of the former President of Mozambique Samora Machel. I think that what made Nelson Mandela a great man, is the fact that he triumphed above this bitterness, he accepted what had been, and looked forward to a future that was not necessarily about him. He set aside his bitterness, shed it almost, smiled from his centre, and embraced the need to build a South Africa in which his children and his children’s children could live and exist side by side with the former oppressors, and putting it simplistically, be whatever they wished to be.

Our Madiba joined his ancestors last night at the age of 95; he had struggled with his health and had gone in and out of hospital in the last few months. Madiba’s life is evidence to me that the human spirit is indomitable, that good inevitably triumphs over evil. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:

“He showed in his own character, and inspired in others; goodness, compassion, a desire for justice, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. He was not only an amazing gift to humankind, he made South Africans and Africans feel good about who we are. He made us walk tall”.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela made me walk tall. What a great man! He was our Madiba and his legacy would live on.